Person smoking cigarette.

Graphic Warnings on Cigarettes: Public Health vs. Corporate Speech

By Laura Karas

The latest attempt of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make a dent in the country’s intractable tobacco problem is a set of color graphic warnings that will appear on cigarette packages and advertisements beginning in June of 2021.

The legal battle surrounding the graphic warnings and other attempts to regulate commercial speech in the food and drug context illustrate the courts’ enduring failure to appreciate the full extent and substantiality of the government’s interest in promoting public health.

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Empty hospital bed.

The Inevitability of Error in Health Care

By John Tingle

A recent publication by the World Health Organization (WHO), a first draft of a global patient safety action plan 2021-2030, seems to have rekindled conversations about the “inevitability of error” in the field of patient safety.

The “inevitability of error” argument indicates that mistakes in health care do inevitably happen; that they are the consequences of the complex nature of health care treatment. Nursing and medicine depend on people, and nobody is infallible — we all make mistakes.

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Houses.

Author Q&A: State Preemption of Inclusionary Zoning Policies and Health Outcomes

Courtnee E. Melton-Fant, PhD

Historically, federal and state governments have been primarily responsible for increasing and maintaining the supply of affordable housing. But as budgets decrease, the burden has fallen more and more to local governments. Inclusionary zoning policies, which seek to reverse the negative, exclusionary effects of conventional zoning, are one tool local governments can use to increase affordable housing stock.

Courtnee Melton-Fant, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Memphis School of Public Health, recently published research in Housing Policy Debate that explores the growing trend of preemption as it relates to these inclusionary zoning policies.

Dr. Melton-Fant’s research used policy surveillance data produced by the Center for Public Health Law Research with the National League of Cities to examine the relationship between state preemption of inclusionary zoning policies and health outcomes among different demographic groups — particularly among people of color.

We asked Dr. Melton-Fant a few questions about her work.

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Empty classroom.

Who’s to Blame for COVID-19 Outbreaks at Colleges and Universities?

By Sravya Chary

For many U.S. colleges and universities that opted for in-person instruction this fall, the return to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic has proven disastrous, and prompted the question: who’s to blame for these new outbreaks?

Although administrators are quick to blame student behavior, in this post, I will argue that the administrations are ultimately at fault – their negligence has put students’ health at risk and exacerbated the public health catastrophe.

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Assessing legal responses to COVID-19 graphic.

New Report Assesses Legal Responses to COVID-19

Assessing Legal Responses to COVID-19 is a new, in-depth analysis of U.S. legal and policy responses to the pandemic.

In the report, 50 top national experts offer a new assessment of the U.S. policy response to the crisis. The research details the widespread failure of the country’s leadership in planning and executing a cohesive, national response, and how the crisis exposed weaknesses in the nation’s health care and public health systems.

The report’s authors also offer recommendations on how federal, state and local leaders can better respond to COVID-19 and future pandemics. Their proposals recommend how to strengthen executive leadership for a stronger emergency response; expand access to public health, health care, and telehealth; fortify protections for workers; and implement a fair and humane immigration policy.

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Masks.

Indiana’s Mask Mandate Debate Raises Public Health Enforcement Questions

By Ross Silverman

On Wednesday, July 22, 2020, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced an Emergency Order to mandate mask wearing in public places beginning July 27, and indicated that violations of the order could potentially result in criminal penalties. Shortly after, Attorney General Curtis Hill issued an opinion questioning the Governor’s authority to criminalize mask violations under the state’s Emergency Management and Disaster Law (EMDL).

Indiana’s Executive Order, while in line with some 30 other states now imposing mask orders, represents a change of positions for the Governor. Holcomb has been an advocate for mask wearing in both word and deed, but, until now, not a mandate. As he indicated at his press conference, there have been “concerning changes” in the state’s trajectory of new COVID-19 cases, and that “By masking up, we can & will save lives & slow the spread of #COVID19.”

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NHS building

Obtaining a Hospital Bed in the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Legal Perspective

By John Tingle

The recently reported case of University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust v MB [2020] EWHC 882 captures well the value of English common case law in resolving complex health care disputes within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and more generally.

Mr Justice Chamberlain in the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice ruled recently that a patient, known as MB, who had occupied an NHS bed for over a year, must vacate it and instead receive care in the community. Her room could be required urgently by COVID-19 patients and there would be an increased risk of MB contracting COVID-19 if she remained in hospital.

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Preemption, Paid Leave, and the Health of America

As the United States continues its response to a seemingly inevitable coronavirus epidemic, experts in law and public health are stressing the importance of supportive social safety nets to ensure an equitable and fair response to the virus’s spread.

If you are one of the nearly two million Americans who works for minimum wage, for much of the service industry, or in the contingent labor force, a situation that forces you to stay home from work – because of illness, or government- or self-imposed quarantine or social distancing measures – could create dire financial circumstances and inhibit measures to mitigate the impact of an infectious disease like COVID-19.

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Histogram chart depicts the number of states that have passed restrictions, bans or protections for abortion in the United States in 2018 and 2019, as well as how court cases may have impacted the implementation of those laws.

Increased Restrictions and Court Activity for Reproductive Rights in the US in 2019

The landscape of abortion law in the United States saw increases in targeted restrictions in 2019, but also some efforts to protect access by state governments and courts, according to new data published this week to LawAtlas.org.

The data capture abortion-focused statutes and regulations (or amendments to existing laws) in effect between December 1, 2018 and December 1, 2019, as well as court cases that may impact the implementation of these laws.

Our research team noticed a few trends:

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Photograph of a report on a table, the report is labeled, "NHS"

The NHS In England: Patient Safety News Roundup

By John Tingle

There is always a lot happening with patient safety in the NHS (National Health Service) in England. Sadly, all too often patient safety crises events occur. The NHS is also no sloth when it comes to the production of patient safety policies, reports, and publications. These generally provide excellent information and are very well researched and produced. Unfortunately, some of these can be seen to falter at the NHS local hospital implementation stage and some reports get parked or forgotten. This is evident from the failure of the NHS to develop an ingrained patient safety culture over the years. Some patient safety progress has been made, but not enough when the history of NHS policy making in the area is analysed.

Lessons going unlearnt from previous patient safety event crises is also an acute problem. Patient safety events seem to repeat themselves with the same attendant issues

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